Circle Time–Term 1

DSC_0215-001 Our busy-ness this year is making Circle Time a challenge.  However, I feel strongly that this is something that should be a part of our homeschool.  I’m posting a pared-down version which I’m hoping to accomplish three times a week.  We’ll work on these selections for approximately six weeks.  (I’m planning to take a week-long break every six weeks, so we’ll re-set after the break.)  Lulu will also use some of our memory work for handwriting practice.  Louise is still working through learning the letters in cursive, so she won’t do this until much later.

Hymn:  “At the Cross”

Bible passage:  Psalm 121 KJV and weekly CBS memory verses Poetry:  “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

History:  Introduction to The Declaration of Independence (carry-over from last year)

I have a good idea for how to handle review, but I just can’t remember to buy what I need to do it when I go to the store.  Alternately, we’re just reviewing through my memory notebook by simply reciting the next hymn, Bible passage, and poem for review.  I shoot for twice a week for review.

Read Aloud Thursday–August 2014

read-aloud211 I don’t know about you, but our new school schedule is seriously challenging my resolve to read aloud!  (This is something I never thought I’d say.  Sniff, sniff.)  Couple the fact that we’re out of the house three mornings a week (!!!) with the fact that our history curriculum this year prescribes our read-alouds, and I’m really struggling to make it work.  I’d love to get into the routine of reading a fun read aloud (which means one I pick ;-) ) at night before bed, but so far our bedtime routine isn’t conducive to that.  Maybe we can work to that end.

I’m also still struggling to fit in as many read-alouds as I’d like with the boys.  I am happy to report that since I started leaving some board books on the table by my bedroom rocking chair that I have read more to Benny than I had been.   My reward has been that Benny’s vocabulary has exploded, and one of his new words is me-me, answered in response to the question “What does the cat say?”  I’m pretty sure he learned that from Big Red Barn, which is still his favorite book.  (I know his vocabulary would’ve likely exploded anyway, but I like to think my reading to him encouraged it just a little bit. ;-) )

The DLM still tends to fixate on a certain few books, so today I thought I’d share his latest library picks:

Jim Aylesworth‘s retelling of Aunt Pitty Patty’s Piggy is one of those books you either love or hate, and which sentiment you choose is likely related to how many times you’ve been asked to read it.  ;-)  According to Aylesworth’s website, this book is an adaptation of the “Old Woman and the Pig” folktale.  It’s something of a “Jack and the Beanstalk” type tale with lots of repetition, which is, of course, what the kids like.  The challenge is saying Aunt Pitty Patty’s Piggy over and over (and over!) again without getting your tongue over your eye tooth so that you can’t see what you’re saying.  Barbara McClintock‘s illustrations are gorgeous, as always.  The DLM gives this one a Highly Recommended, and so do I, though mine’s a little less enthusiastic. ;-) (Scholastic, 1999)

I picked It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall out of the new picture books bin because his style of illustration is unmistakable; we enjoyed his My Heart Is Like a Zoo several years back and even made an art project to go along with it.  It’s an Orange Aardvark is the story of a bunch of ants that live in the stump of a tree.  One of these conversant, hardhat wearing ants decides to drill a hole in their stump to give them a window on the world.  This adventuresome ant has at least one naysayer–What if there’s an aardvark outside?  Each hole the ants drill reveals another color, dividing the ants into two camps–one expecting an aardvark (a “pajama-wearing, ketchup-carrying, gecko-guiding, dozer-driving, orange aardvark pouring purple grape juice,” no less), the other believing it’s something better. The ending is humorous, unless you’re a fan of ants.   The DLM was really taken with this story, and I really wanted to be.  Something about the die-cut, paper piecing style of illustration is appealing to me, though die-cut pages (each hole the ants cut in the stump is a real hole in the page) can be a no-no with small children.  I think our library copy has a defect from the printer because there seems to be duplicates of a couple of pages, and I can’t read the story without being really confused by that.  Still, if you can get your hands on a whole copy, I think this one is a fun one for the preschool and early elementary crowd.  (Greenwillow, 2014)

I must have a thing for the song “Over in the ________.”  I can think of several picture-book renditions of this song I’ve read to my children over the years, including another one by Marianne Berkes.  Over in the River:  Flowing Out to the Sea is a stellar addition to the group.  In addition to being a counting book, with one more animal added to each page, this book also teaches a bit about geography!  On each two page spread, there’s a U.S. map highlighting the river on which the pertinent animals live.  When you get to the end of the book, you also learn that there are animals hidden throughout the story, one per page.  This means you get to read it all over again, this time studying Jill Dubin‘s lovely cut-paper collage illustrations more closely.  The backmatter in this one is more than adequate and includes information about the rivers and the animals, book extension suggestions, drawing hints from the illustrator, and a musical score for the song.  Highly Recommended.  (Dawn Publications, 2013)

As for chapter books, we’ve spent the entire month reading Summer of the Monkeys, but we finally finished it on Monday of this week.   What a fun story!  Yesterday we got started on the next Melendy book,  Then There Were Five.  Today I hope to also start reading Secret of the Andes, and according to our Sonlight schedule, we’re supposed to start reading Lawn Boy, too.  (It’s short!  Hallelujah!)  That’s a lot of reading aloud.  We’ll see how it goes.  :-)

I want to share a few links before I end this month’s RAT post.  First, did you know Jim Trelease has a website?  I didn’t!  It looks like it will be a good resource for read-alouds.  I read his Read Aloud Handbook years ago, before I had any children, and I think it definitely had a long-lasting impact on how I view reading aloud.

Second, if you’re looking for something good to read aloud next, why not consider reading George McDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin along with the Reading to Know Bookclub?  It’s the September pick.  I was all geared up to read it until my girls informed me that we already have read it.   :-)

What’s in your read-aloud basket this month?

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls seemed like a good read-aloud to end up our summer break.   This was a new-to-me novel, despite having loved and read (and re-read) Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows as a kid.   The only thing I knew about this story was what I remember a library patron–a homeschooling mom, if my memory serves me correctly–telling me about it twenty years ago when I worked as a public library aide.  This was an easy book for me to read aloud–the backwoods Oklahoman cadences and dialect of Jay Berry and his family might’ve sounded a wee bit too southern, but I didn’t stumble over his words much.  :-)

Every one of us, even down to our four year old DLM, was captivated by the story of Jay Berry and his quest to catch a passel of monkeys that have escaped from a circus train.  We loved his relationship with his grandpa and his devotion to his tightly knit family, including his crippled twin sister, Daisy.  I loved the fact that at fourteen, Jay Berry is still pretty wide-eyed and innocent, certainly not the jaded teen we’ve come to expect in the novel of today.  This story is full to bursting with humor; almost every interaction Jay Berry has with this troupe of monkeys and their ring-leader, a chimpanzee named Jimbo, is hilarious, at least to the reader.  (Jay Berry doesn’t find them too funny since he’s counting on catching the monkeys for the reward money which will enable him to buy his much-longed for .22 rifle and pony.) He and Grandpa work hard and come up with all sorts of schemes to trap these monkeys, but they’re no match for the wily Jimbo.   Mother Nature helps Jay Berry out and he does end up with his prize money, but the story doesn’t end there.   Rawls wraps up this tale with a very heartwarming and satisfying conclusion.

Yes, we enjoyed this one a lot, though it’s not without its flaws.  The resolution of the monkey story seems like the natural end of the tale, so the real ending seems almost like an appendix to the monkey tale.   Fans of Where the Red Fern Grows already know how beautifully Rawls captures the relationship between a boy and his dog(s), and in this tale, Jay Berry’s relationship with his hound dog Rowdy almost upstages the main story.  (I shared my favorite part in the whole book for this week’s Wednesdays with Words post.  Check it out if you want to get a taste of Rawls’ style.)  This isn’t really a bad thing at all, though it does weaken the plot a bit, in my opinion.  There’s also some superstitious mumbo-jumbo about an Old Man of the Mountains who may or may not be Jesus or God and who protects all the little creatures of the mountains.  (I just took it as an opportunity to have a little discussion with my children about what the Bible teaches about this and other similar issues. )  These few weaknesses definitely didn’t detract from the enjoyment my children got from this story at all.  In fact, after reading this author profile of Wilson Rawls on Jim Trelease’s site, I’m more inclined to overlook the weaknesses and give this one a huge Highly Recommended.  (Doubleday, 1976)

Wednesdays with Words: Summer of the Monkeys

WWW ladydusk

We just finished Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls on Monday night.  What a fun and heartwarming story! (Come back later today for my review of it.)  This morning I thought I’d share my favorite scene from the book.  In this scene, Jay Berry, his Grandpa, and his beloved hound Rowdy have gone into the nearest town to visit the library.  Jay Berry and Grandpa really don’t know proper library etiquette, so after being shushed by the librarian, they finally get the book they’re looking for.  That’s when things get really exciting in the library!

Just as Grandpa opened the book to the index page, the silence of the library was shattered by the deep voice of Rowdy.  He had gotten tired of waiting for me and had come to the open door and bawled.  He was telling me that it was time I got myself out of there.

I had always known that my old hound had a beautiful voice, but I had never heard it ring like it did in that silent library.  The deep tones rolled out over the floor, slammed against the walls, bounced off the ceiling, and made books quiver on the shelves.  Boys and girls all over the place started screaming withe laughter.

Like a shot out of a gun, the little lady came from behind the counter and over to Rowdy.  She stopped right in front of him.  With her hands on her hips, she stood there looking at him. Rowdy thought he had found another friend and was acting like he was very proud of what he had done.  He just sat there, mopping the floor with his tail and panting happily. (chapter 11)

This really tickled us.  What a great story!


Books, Reading, and Home Education


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